American Robin Migration Update: March 23, 1999
Today's Report Includes:
Robins Heading North!
Spring in the Desert
Spring doesn't necessarily arrive in the south first. Las Vegas, Nevada, is very far south (36.13N, -115.304), but spring is taking its time to arrive there. One Las Vegas teacher wrote on March 12, 1999, "Saw my first robin today. This seems, to me, to be a late date for returning robins, but in Las Vegas we have had a very cold, windy spring, unusually cold. The robins love to eat the berries of my pyracantha bushes. The pyracantha belongs to the rose family--so the
robins are eating 'rose hips'!! The red berries of the pyracantha are the robins' favorite food in my yard and when more robins get here, they will strip the plants of last year's red berries and also make a royal mess in my yard and on my sidewalk. But I am glad to see the robins are beginning to come back--perhaps we will finally see spring on the Mojave Desert."
The word "cold" means something a little different in the Mojave Desert than in Homer, Alaska! Which brings us to
First Females Arriving!
Female robins are the same size as males, but they are slightly more softly colored. Let us know when the first
females arrive in your area! Report your first female robin and your first wave of robins under "Robins (OTHER
These are the Journey North Observation Posts:
Eileen Conroy reports from Madoc, Ontario:
"There have been many sightings of robins this winter in eastern Ontario...as a matter of fact, it doesn't seem as though they really left! Saturday, March 20 we saw three male robins arguing over territory in the yard...yesterday, however, we received almost 20cm of very wet snow which has now re-covered everything in a blanket of white.
Mike Sterling reports from near Anchorage:
"There are no earthworms in sight. Any robin antsy enough to try to come up here right now would have to eat snow. The temperature hit 40 yesterday down in town, but believe me, it only reflected off a LOT of snow!"
Mike sends us some sadder news, too:
"Last Monday and Tuesday we got 26 inches of snow at my house. Alyeska Resort, the big ski area outside of Anchorage, had an avalanche that hit two people. The elementary school in Girdwood has been closed for the last two days due to a snow load that caused structural damage. This weekend a terrible avalanche engulfed a popular snowmachining area and the death count could approach ten. "
Discussion of Challenge Question # 9: We asked, "What do earthworms eat? Why don't robins simply eat the worm food themselves, avoiding the 'middle man.?'"
Earthworms eat dirt. They live in moist soil rich in organic matter such as decaying leaves and other plant material. But even very rich soil is mostly minerals and other non-digestible matter. Worms don't have to move fast or fly. Worm stomachs and intestines take up most of their bodies! They fill up their long digestive system with dirt and slowly digest the nutrients. They eliminate "castings" of all the undigestible parts of the soil. Worms lead such slow, sluggish lives that some live longer than ten years!
Robins and other birds must keep their bodies as light as possible for flight. So they are very selective in their food choices. They select items that are high in protein, natural sugars, and fats. Robins would have to eat a LOT of dirt and have enormous, heavy stomachs and intestines to digest soil--that would make it impossible to fly! That's why they eat worms rather than worm food.
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
Answer only one Challenge Question in each e-mail.
The next Robin Migration Update will be posted Tuesday, April 6, 1999.
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